Lorries represent just 3% of the vehicle fleet but they cause 25% of road transport emissions and are involved in 18% of fatal crashes, which kill approximately 7,000 people annually. European law on lorry sizes forces the front end of European lorry cabins to be blunt, which makes lorries inefficient and dangerous.
Changes in the law to allow for longer cabins will enable smarter design of the lorry front, with a round, deflecting nose and a crash box, or crumple zone. This improves the aerodynamics of the lorry, avoids accidents because of better driver vision, reduces the impact of frontal crashes and helps prevent pedestrians and cyclists from being overrun in the event of an accident. All in all the changes can save the lives of hundreds of cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers as well as billions of litres of diesel every year .
Jeannot Mersch, president of the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims said: “Lorries have an infamous reputation when it comes to road safety, and rightly so. Currently, a frontal crash with a lorry is like hitting a brick wall. Design changes to the nose of the lorry cab will help to reduce severe injuries and save hundreds of lives each year. These improvements should be mandated for all lorries as soon as possible.”
Current EU law implicitly leaves only 2.35m for the length of a lorry cabin, which leaves no space for a rounder front. This hampers progress in fuel efficiency and safety. A 2012 study for T&E by German engineering institute FKA, shows that a rounder lorry front could reduce air resistance by 12% and improve fuel economy by 3-5% – which at today’s fuel prices would save hauliers €1,500 per lorry per year. This improved fuel economy translates to about 5MT of CO2 emissions savings.
Transport & Environment policy officer, William Todts, said: “European lorries have been stuck in the past and this is costing Europe billions of euros in wasted fuel. The proposal is a small step towards freight transport fit for the 21st century.”
The proposal also regrettably says that longer lorries (25m) should be permitted to cross borders between neighbouring countries that both allow them. For 16 years, the law had been widely accepted to only permit such ‘megatrucks’ in national transport . If the proposal became law, use of megatrucks in the EU would certainly rise, which would increase road transport, emissions and accidents.
“The Commission has opened the door to cross-border use of megatrucks in Europe without appropriate guarantees for both citizen safety and environmental protection. We need better trucks, not bigger trucks.” William Todts concluded.
Notes to editors:
(1) Graphic demonstrating some of the safety, fuel-efficiency and comfort benefits of the new face of lorries: https://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/Truck_Final.pdf
(2) The EU’s current rules for international transport say no lorry can be longer than 18.75 metres or have a fully laden weight greater than 40 tonnes.